Corporate

Mwangi to retire from Equity Bank after 2032

James Mwangi

Equity Group Chief Executive Officer James Mwangi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Equity Group chief executive James Mwangi has disclosed he will retire at the earliest in 2032 in what will make him one of the longest-serving CEOs of firms listed.
  • Mr Mwangi, 59, says he expects to commit his future to the bank beyond the 70-year age limit set by the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) for serving on the boards of Nairobi bourse firms.
  • He had earlier talked of leaving the bank’s executive suite to join its foundation—which is the social arm of Equity Group.

Equity Group chief executive James Mwangi has disclosed he will retire at the earliest in 2032 in what will make him one of the longest-serving CEOs of firms listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

Mr Mwangi, 59, says he expects to commit his future to the bank beyond the 70-year age limit set by the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) for serving on the boards of Nairobi bourse firms.

He had earlier talked of leaving the bank’s executive suite to join its foundation—which is the social arm of Equity Group.

Mr Mwangi’s intention to serve longer will cement his position as one of the longest tenures at publicly traded firms, having served the bank for 31 years including 17 years as CEO.

“I have served only 17 years. I am inspired by that. Equity retirement age is 70. Peter Munga retired as chairman at age of 75, just like David Ansell. When my time comes, it will be really easy [retiring] but I am still under 60,” Mr Mwangi said in an interview.

“I have retired from all the subsidiaries and now on the holding company. So I don’t see a challenge because I don’t run the business. The company that I run is the holding company, managing the relationship with investors. That doesn’t drive performance, but drives relationship with the shareholders. That can be done by anybody.”

The holding company is at the perch of the subsidiaries that include Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, DR Congo and Uganda.

The bank also has a representative office in Ethiopia and is racing to diversify into a regional lender. Equity’s Kenyan business contributes the bulk of its profits.

Mr Mwangi joined Equity as finance director before rising to chief executive in the 1990s when it was still a building society.

He has been credited with the lender’s expansion in the Eastern African region on the back of mergers and acquisitions while rising to be Kenya’s most profitable lender.

During his tenure, few stocks have generated wealth for long-term shareholders like Equity, which has minted a number of billionaires since going public in August 2006.

Equity’s market valuation has risen from Sh8.1 billion in 2006 to Sh189.6 billion at the close of trading yesterday, representing a 2,333 percent growth or 23 times rise. Its shareholders have earned Sh49.8 billion in dividends since 2011.

This share appreciation is only defied by Safaricom, whose share has grown in recent years to account for about 60 percent of the total market valuation currently.

On earnings, Equity’s profit has more doubled over the past decade to Sh20.1 billion last year from Sh7.1 billion in 2010.

Mr Mwangi belongs to a small club of about seven chief executives of NSE-listed firms who have served for more than 15 years and are expected to extend their tenure in a market where on average top managers don’t serve in excess of a decade.

Flame Tree’s founder, Heril Bangera, has the longest run of 32 years, followed by Car & General’s Vijay Gidoomal and TPS Eastern Africa’s Mahmud Jan Mohamed, who have served for 25 years and at least 24 years respectively.

Others are DTB Group’s Nasim Devji (20 years), Co-operative Bank’s Gideon Muriuki (20 years) and Crown Paints’ Rakesh Rao (16 years).

Their relatively longer tenures are due to a mix of factors, including being founders of the companies, being credited with the success of the firms and a policy of not arbitrarily limiting CEOs’ terms.

Mr Muriuki and Mr Mwangi are credited with the growth of their respective banks to the top of the industry in less than two decades.

Co-op Bank is the third-largest bank by assets while Equity recently ascended to the pole position, relegating KCB Group to second place on the back of aggressive regional acquisitions.

127.8M SHARES

Mr Muriuki and Mr Mwangi each retain minority stakes in their companies and are expected to continue leading the firms into the future, riding on the above-average returns shareholders have booked via dividends and capital gains.

Mr Mwangi currently holds 127.8 million Equity shares, equivalent to a 3.38 percent stake in the lender.

The Equity chief executive is also the beneficial owner of another one percent stake through his entitlements in the bank’s employee share ownership plan.

This brings his total shareholding to 4.38 percent, making him the single-largest individual investor in the bank with a stake worth Sh8.27 billion.

A few companies at the Nairobi bourse have an official policy of changing their CEOs after a few years and they are typically subsidiaries of multinational firms.